WOODSTOCK – The Kaneland girls volleyball team’s remarkable late-season run continued Monday night.
Despite dropping the opening set – then falling behind midway through the second set – the Knights rallied for a thrilling 18-25, 25-20, 25-20 comeback victory over top-seeded Carmel in a Class 3A Woodstock North Sectional semifinal.
Kaneland will face the sectional’s other top seed, Sterling (37-1), for the sectional title at 6 p.m. Wednesday. The Knights lost to Sterling two seasons ago in a sectional final. It’s something the team’s seniors haven’t forgotten.
“We were the favorites two years ago and lost,” Kaneland senior outside hitter Katie Jablonski said. “But this time we’re the underdogs, which sounds funny to say since we have such a long win streak. We’d love nothing more than to turn the tables on them this time around. It should be one heck of a match, and we look forward to the challenge.”
It was the 25th consecutive win for No. 3-seed Kaneland (34-4).
Jablonski, who notched her 1,000th career kill one game before during her team’s regional title match, picked up where she left off against Carmel. She tallied 17 kills against the Corsairs and was especially instrumental to Kaneland’s success during a momentum-turning second set that saw 13 combined ties or lead changes.
As the match wore on, the Knights seemed to have an extra bit of energy every time they needed it, thanks in part to routine rotations by coach Cyndi Violett. She didn’t hesitate to give everyone brief spurts of rest when necessary, trusting the depth on her bench.
“That’s a typical rotation for us,” Violett said. “But we used as many subs as we did because it was such a back-and-forth game. We’re not afraid to use all (15) of the players on our roster.”
“They pick teams during practice, mix it up, and that ensures all of our players are used to playing alongside one another,” Violett said. “It also helps develop chemistry, which you saw out there tonight.”
Kaneland had eight kills in the first set, 18 during the second set and a whopping 20 in the final set. But it was the outstanding play of junior outside hitter Grace Franz (14 kills) in the third set that put Carmel away for good. The Corsairs, who finished with eight blocks, didn’t block any of her six spikes during the final set.
Franz, who was playing with a sprained right foot and bone bruise, battled through the pain.
“It’s sectionals, so it’s gonna take a lot more than that to keep me out,” Franz said.
By the numbers: The Knights have dropped only two sets over their past 24 matches.
Beyond the stats: The Knights’ depth continues to pose problems for opponents late in the season.
They said it: “Once we got out our momentum rolling, we felt like there were stretches where they weren’t going to beat us,” Franz said.